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Legislature needs to force Blanco to do right on taxes, spending

When those in the know saw Gov. Kathleen Blanco runs towards the center in her 2003 bid for governor, they knew this was a conversion only of political convenience. Since then, she has acted consistently liberal on taxing and spending issues, overseeing a 50 percent growth in the size of government in just four years while offering crumbs in tax cuts and attempting to tax things from cigarettes to sick people.

Had she stayed in the 2007 race for reelection, we might have expected to see this year a mirroring of the 2003 promises, in the form of a budget that veered away from big government and for empowering people by allowing them to keep more of what they earn. But she didn’t do that and we didn’t see such a budget.

By contrast, increasingly recognized by legislators of both parties is a conservative/reformist surge ready to sweep the state in the fall elections. For some, especially those who wish to perpetuate their legislative careers by jumping from one chamber to another to circumvent the three-term limit, they will emulate Blanco’s move of political opportunism by distancing themselves from their records of supporting big government to become evangelists for tax cuts and reducing the size of government. Along with genuine small government, low tax advocates, this puts them on a collision course with Blanco.

Regardless of their motives, they need to prevail. Louisiana is already one of the most heavily taxed states (in state and local taxes) in the union even with having one of the lowest per capita incomes of all, and, despite a surplus largely derived from temporary causes, Blanco wants to provide just the most tepid and uneven of tax reductions (indeed one of her ideas, subsidizing day care with tax credits, actually would expand government’s role). Only legislators are expressing a desire for meaningful tax cuts and reduction in the size of government.

In fact, Blanco continues to have enormous faith in government to do things and singularly lacks it in the people of Louisiana. Her over-10 percent per annum spending increase request calls for all sorts of new recurring spending that is unlikely to be sustained under the current fiscal structure of the state. Instead, she should be holding off of new commitments and cut taxes to allow the economy to grow to support revenue growth exceeding that of current expenditure growth to enable such spending in the future.

This is common sense, it has gripped the Louisiana public more than usual this year, and legislators, even those who have demonstrated in the past they share Blanco’s view, are jumping on the bandwagon. Unfortunately, Blanco is too blind to see this, witness her ridiculous statement: “If the Legislature wants to do excessive tax cuts, it could throw everything off … I am trying to be responsible for future administrations. I would rather not pass on financial struggles. Any massive tax cuts will mess with the next administration.” As one might elaborate on the sentiment expressed in a Garbage tune, she’s too dense to understand her very proposed actions are the ones that will imperil the state’s financial health and leave massive problems for the next governor.

Unfortunately, she has a veto pen but regardless the Legislature should send her a reduced budget and tax decreases. If so, she can’t jack up the spending so maybe she’ll go along with the cuts. Otherwise, the state misses a golden, perhaps once-in-a-generation chance to improve its quality of life.

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